Is This the Future of Car Travel For Dogs?

Did you know that pet owners in Japan are suddenly clamoring for vehicles that accommodate their canine companions? They want vehicles that make animal transportation safer and more convenient, or at least that’s what the people at Honda believe. At a recent auto show in Japan, the company revealed a new concept car designed specifically to make Fido’s ride a smoother one. This doggie mobile of the future features a special crate in the glove compartment to enable interactions between driver and a small dog, a bigger pop-up crate in the back seat for mid-size breeds, and a special floor-secured seatbelt, also in the back, for large dogs. Additional features include sliding doors and washable, rollout flooring.

How Can I Keep My Dog Safe in the Car

Unfortunately, the Wonderful Openhearted Wagon (or WOW) won’t be available here or abroad anytime soon. But the idea is a good one, and you don’t need a special vehicle to accomplish it.  

Do Dogs Need Car Seats?

A recent survey conducted by the AAA and Kurgo, a pet travel products company, shows just how risky the behavior of dog-owning drivers can be. Nearly one-quarter of all respondents said that they “have used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place while applying brakes.” Nineteen percent have used their hands or arms to keep their dog from climbing into the front seat, creating a situation where the drivers remove at least one hand from the steering wheel. Additionally, 52 percent of owners said they pet their dogs as they drive along.

We seem to know what to do, and yet we take the risks anyway. For example, 83 percent of respondents acknowledged that having an unrestrained dog in a moving car can be dangerous, and yet only 16 percent of owners said they currently use a pet restraint. This can lead to horrific consequences.

“An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure,” says Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National Traffic Safety Programs manager. “Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in its path.”

Huebner-Davidson and other experts strongly recommend that you use a pet restraint system, easily found online or at most pet stores. Like a car seat or seat belt for a human passenger, such restraints can “limit distractions and protect you, your pet and other passengers in the event of a crash or sudden stop.”

If you are properly prepared, and if your dog enjoys car trips, you can then take it with you whenever and wherever you go, as long as the destination will also be safe and dog-friendly. Another pet peeve of mine: owners who let their dogs run loose out of cars. Always keep your dog on a leash when you are out and about. It’s for your dog’s safety, and for that of others.

Here’s What You Can Do, To Make Your Dog’s Ride Safe, Comfortable and Fun. 

What is the Safest Way to Travel With a Dog in the Car?

You wouldn’t put a two-year-old child in a car without the proper seat, and the same should be true for a dog. “Safe containment is extremely important,” says Gail Buchwald, a vice president of the ASPCA. “Keeping a pet secured in a well-ventilated carrier is ideal. What’s far from ideal is a pooch in front, window down, face in the breeze. The pet looks happy, but it’s a serious health hazard. Riding like this puts dogs at risk for inner ear damage and lung infections, not to mention injuries that can be caused by flying objects like twigs and acorns.”

Airbags in the front seats of many cars can also hurt a pet if deployed. Bottom line: Fido should ride in the back, in a crate or a dog car seat, or secured with a seatbelt harness. Pet stores and Internet pet product sites offer these and other gear that make car travel safe for canines. Whichever product you choose, your pet must be able to stand up, lie down, and do a full turn. “Animals can become overheated and pained if kept in a single position for a long period. They need to be able to stretch and change positions just like we do,” explains Buchwald.

How Do I Prepare My Dog For a Road Trip?

If your four-legged friend will be taking a road trip for the first time, it’s important to prepare for this in advance. “Getting your dog used to a series of short drives will keep it calm later,” advises Buchwald. Your pet will become accustomed to the sights, smells and movements of the car, and will understand that the final destination is eventually its beloved home.

How Can I Get My Dog To Get in the Car?

Some dogs love to go for car rides, looking out windows and sniffing new smells. And then there are other types of dogs that need to be coaxed, whining and pulling back, into the vehicle. Some experience a tummy upset when they look outside the window. Others are just the opposite. As Jack and Wendy Volhard, authors of Dog Training for Dummies, point out, there is a catch-22 in place. The dog forever upchucks on rides. It therefore only gets into the vehicle when it has to, and that’s usually for a vet visit. Now the pattern reinforces in your dog’s mind that cars are bad news, leading to an even worse destination.

Why Does My Dog Hate Getting in the Car?

The Volhards believe that a negative association with the car can lead to a dog’s stomach upset, so it’s not necessarily just the motion triggering the misery. They suggest that you make every effort to turn the car into something positive for your dog. Open the door with the engine turned off and ease your dog inside. Provide happy verbal reinforcement and bring along a food treat or two. Spend some time with your dog in the vehicle, showering it with positive attention and letting it know that it’s being good. Repeat this over a series of days until your dog goes into the car willingly and without fear.

The next suggestion is an easy one. Be sure to take your dog to some fun places in the car, in addition to the vet’s office. Before long, it will learn that car rides aren’t always a bad thing. If true motion sickness is the culprit, that is a time to discuss the matter with your dog’s veterinarian for possible remedies.

Should You Feed a Dog Before a Car Ride?

A dog’s digestive system is not as resilient as a human’s, and feeding just before a car ride is a recipe for nausea. “Feed your pet a very light meal three to four hours before departure,” says Buchwald. “And never feed your dog in a moving vehicle.”

How long Can a Dog Ride in a Car?

Your dog needs as many pit stops as you do. Walk your pooch and make sure it urinates each time you hit a rest stop. Because many dogs become panicked while traveling, they also are more prone to run once they exit the vehicle. As such, it’s crucial that their leashes are secured before the car door opens. Dogs should also travel with identification tags, temporary ones that provide a way to reach you while on the road, just in case the unthinkable happens and they do manage to get away.

Water availability must also be considered before any trip. “It’s important for dogs to remain hydrated,” explains Buchwald. “They have a limited opportunity to cool and hydrate while in a vehicle. Bring a bowl and bottles of tap water from home. Water changes from state to state, region to region, and providing your dog with water familiar to its digestive system avoids stomach upset. You can gradually introduce the new water to your dog by mixing it in with the water from home while you’re away.”

How Long Can You Leave Your Dog in the Car?

Finally, never leave your dog alone in the car. Says Buchwald, “It’s tempting when you want to grab a bite to eat, but the next thing you know, Fido’s hyperventilating from the heat, or freezing from the cold. I can’t say enough, they should not be left unattended. If that’s the only option, leave Spot at home.” WOW or no WOW, that’s one pet travel rule to live by.

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Article written by Author: Darcy Lockman, The Dog Daily Expert

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